the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib. Isaiah 1:3
The holy father, in a recent book
on the infancy of Jesus, Christ the Lord,
debunked the angels we have heard on high
and banished beasts from the Nativity.
those manger scenes and creches notwithstanding,
those figurines of lowly animals,
their steamy exhalations warming the babe,
more myth, so says the pope, than scriptural.
My jack ass, Charles, has begun to mope
around the haggard, inconsolable
as that giant Canaanite and erstwhile saint
who shouldered Christ across the river once,
downsized, alas, to “Mister” Christopher,
by another pope, who some few years ago,
consigned him to the hinterlands of faith.
As for Charles, my gelded, piebald ass,
who’s borne such burdens as were his to bear,
on Sundays carting Christians off to Mass
much as a forbearer bore Mary hence,
fat, gravid with God’s Lamb to Bethlehem,
the way lit by a guiding star’s bright light
now dimmed some by the magisterium.
The time I’ve spent with asses was well spent
and taught me reticence, humility,
and reverence for their meditative lives;
whereas my time with hierarchs has wrought
little but wariness at the ways of men
who claim to have such eminence and grace
and proud dominion over lesser beings
for whom the heart keeps time: par rum pum pum pum.
[Refer: When asked what inspired this poem, Lynch wrote: “I remember reading in a review of Pope Benedict's biography of Jesus, in which Benedict said that our images of the Nativity—specifically the ox and lambs and asses—were probably not historically accurate and ought to be removed from the popular imagination of the 'manger scene.’ As someone who keeps asses in West Clare, Ireland, I thought it a heartless banishment. Thus the poem. It was, of course, written before our new pope who, named for the great lover of beasts, would never have banished the burden-bearing sort.”]
Image by Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr Creative Commons
Thomas Lynch is a writer and funeral director. He has published six books of poems, three books of essays, a book of short fictions and a play. His most recent book, co-authored with Thomas G. Long, is The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care. He keeps homes in Michigan and in West Clare, Ireland. “Par Rum Pum Pum Pum” originally appeared in Cyphers No. 75 (Summer 2013) in Ireland. Read more at http://www.thomaslynch.com/1/234/index.asp.